Michael Curzon

Is there Any Evidence that the New Lockdown Measures will Work?

There follows a guest post in which ‘George Santayana’, the pseudonym of a senior executive in a pharmaceutical company, asks if there is there any evidence that the new lockdown measures will work? After examining the impact of similar measures in Scotland and Wales in the last six months, he concludes that they will not.

Last week, the Prime Minister announced that England would be moving to implement stricter mask mandates, work from home orders and vaccine passports in certain situations to try and do something to limit the rise of the Omicron variant. This is the so-called ‘Plan B’ and, although nowhere near a full Lockdown, involves the U.K. Government flexing its authoritarian muscles and imposing a range of restrictions on England in the name of saving us from viral Armageddon. But is there any evidence that these measures will help?

Effectively since ‘Freedom Day’ (July 19th, 2021), we’ve been doing a real-world experiment in England, Scotland, and Wales because, while England dropped mask requirements and had never implemented vaccine passports, the other two nations maintained the requirement for face coverings and introduced vaccine passports in some settings. In effect, Scotland and Wales all went to versions of ‘Plan B’ and, as a result, we can compare the effect that these extra restrictions have had on SARS-CoV-2 infection and Covid-related deaths to those in England as a way of understanding the potential impact of ‘Plan B’ in England.

Let’s start by thinking about what we might predict would have happened if ‘Plan B’ measures had had any significant effect in preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Scotland and Wales. Firstly, we would predict that, looking at levels of infection within the general population, we should see a clear difference between England, as the control group, and Wales and Scotland, with England performing worse with respect to the number of infections per head of population or perhaps showing worse trends in things such as more rapid increases in rates of infection or slower recovery from a ‘wave’ of infections. Similarly, if we consider Covid-related deaths, we’d expect that ‘Plan B’ would help Scotland and Wales avoid a larger number of Covid related death compared to England, which would again be at the bottom of the league table. Finally, as the non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) implemented by Wales and Scotland in their ‘Plan Bs’ are similar, we might expect that any trends we observe in looking at infections and deaths in these two countries are more similar to each other than to England, corroborating the idea that these improvements are due to ‘Plan B’.

Let’s first look at the infection data, which we can pull directly from the latest ONS survey that can be found here.

In Figure One, I’ve reproduced the results from the ONS coronavirus infection survey for England, Wales, and Scotland. The arrows on the graphs on the left-hand side indicate the approximate position of July 19th (‘Freedom Day’).

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A Doctor Writes… What We Know About the Omicron Variant So Far

There follows a guest post from our in-house doctor, formerly a senior medic in the NHS, on what we know so far about the Omicron Covid variant. He’s also written about the scandal of the Downing Street parties – Secret Santa-Gate – asking: “If Covid really was such a mortal threat as the Government have led the public to believe, do readers really think that Downing Street apparatchiks would be flocking to packed parties in small rooms? I suspect not.

It’s now two weeks since the world first heard of the Omicron variant. Travel restrictions and mask mandates were immediately reimposed on the U.K. population and have since been tightened further. Reports in the press this morning are trailing the reimposition of more curbs on liberty in the U.K. over the next few weeks. In today’s update, I will examine what we have learnt about the new variant and to what extent it may affect the situation in the NHS. This update is a bit data-heavy, so apologies in advance for the graphic fest.

South Africa is widely regarded as the epicentre of Omicron. Having spent considerable time working in that wonderful country, I can attest to the expertise of my South African medical colleagues, particularly in the field of infectious diseases. So, when Dr. Fareed Abdullah writes from the Steve Biko Hospital in Pretoria that the data so far on the Omicron variant suggests it is very much milder than the Delta variant, I’m inclined to take him seriously.

I encourage readers to examine this document themselves – this extract is worth quoting in full:

In summary, the first impression on examination of the 166 patients admitted since the Omicron variant made an appearance, together with the snapshot of the clinical profile of 42 patients currently in the Covid wards at the SBAH/TDH complex, is that the majority of hospital admissions are for diagnoses unrelated to Covid. The SARS-CoV-2 positivity is an incidental finding in these patients and is largely driven by hospital policy requiring testing of all patients requiring admission to the hospital.

Using the proportion of patients on room air as a marker for incidental Covid admission as opposed to severe Covid (pneumonia), 66% of patients at the SBAH/TDH complex are incidental Covid admissions. This very unusual picture is also occurring at other hospitals in Gauteng. On December 3rd, Helen Joseph Hospital had 37 patients in the Covid wards of whom 31 were on room air (83%); and the Dr. George Mukhari Academic Hospital had 80 patients of which 14 were on supplemental oxygen and one on a ventilator (81% on room air).

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